NGTC Audi racer Rob Austin says that he is very confident ahead of the second half of the British Touring Car season, which resumes at the new Snetterton 300 circuit in two and a half weeks time.
Rob Austin Racing made it’s debut in the first meeting of 2011, using a brand-new full-NGTC specification Audi A4. Problems with the delivery of the car and difficulties with the engine hampered the start to the team’s involvement in the BTCC.
David Pinkney had originally signed to race for the team but due to these issues decided to step down from driving duties until the car has been developed more thoroughly. With no track time accumulated at the opening meeting, it could only improve for the team thereafter.
From the second meeting of the year at Donington Park Team Principal Rob Austin took over the driving duties. Despite actually being able to get the car on to the circuit during the weekend it was still a difficult weekend for the team. Looking back on the team’s difficult introduction to the BTCC, Austin admitted that he was proud of the team’s achievements, despite the lack of results.
“We’re very proud – we’ve worked our arses off all year long to even get the car to the first meeting which unfortunately turned out to be a bit of an embarrassment,” said Austin. “The second meeting, due to the engine, also turned out to be an embarrassment. We were all working so hard behind the scenes to even get it that far – considering what we were up against which is just too much to list! We still feel like we’re fighting with an arm tied behind our back a little bit but we’ll get there.”
Early on in the year Rob Austin Racing took the decision to take over the build of the new Audi A4 from GPR Motorsport. Since then the team has worked flat-out to improve and rebuild the car, bringing it to within one second of the front-running pace.
“We were expecting our cars delivered, both of them, a month before the first one was delivered,” said Austin. “We’ve only just taken delivery of the second one. We weren’t really expecting to have to develop the NGTC like we feel like we have.
|“We’ve taken 100kg out of a car that was supposedly built ready-to-race. We’ve got a new engine in the car now and we’ve had the cars back to bare shells basically and redone all the work that was done to them previously, so they are very much our own cars now. We’ve still got vast areas for improvement and we feel after Croft it’s starting to turn around.|
“We’ve started to show some pace and we’ve still got a hell of a lot more to come. If we had finished those races it would have been three top tens.”
With the Pershore-based team having continued development of the car during the summer break, as well as having received delivery of the second chassis, Austin is particularly confident heading to the new Snetterton 300 circuit – a track which will give the entire field a relatively level playing field as none have raced there before in a touring car.
“We’ve got pretty big steps forward to take. We’re very confident going into Snetterton, we’ve taken big leaps to get to around a second off and it gets a lot tougher now but to find the pace we have with what we’ve got left to do we’re very positive about it. We’re expecting to be qualifying well into the top ten at Snetterton and we’re also taking this time to get the second car up to scratch so we should be turning up to Snetterton with two very fast Audi’s.”
When quizzed about who the team’s second driver may be, Austin admitted that enquiries were still ongoing.
“Obviously David [Pinkney] is a potential option for the second seat – he is somebody we’ve been in contact with since last year. But there is a bit of a queue forming and it’s just trying to find the person who’s going to do the best job for us. We believe the car’s got great potential.”
“If we don’t win a race this year I’ll be gutted”
Austin also stated that he believes the team can win a race before the end of the season – despite the strongest result to-date being a 12th-placed finish at Oulton Park.
“We’re going to win! If we don’t win a race this year I’ll be gutted. Honestly, we’ve got so much more to come and I don’t think I’m unrealistic in saying we’ll win a race. If I didn’t think we could win then what’s the point in doing it?”
“I have no doubt my pace is as quick as anybody else on that grid, if not quicker. It’s the racing driver mentality. I do understand however that touring car racing is a different art form and I’ve got a lot to learn when it comes to rubbing and actually racing them – racecraft in a touring car is different.”
If Austin’s confidence is anything to go by, expect to see an Audi battling towards the front of the field more often from now on.